In a bit of innovative marketing that earns some money too, the Ukrainian company that makes the Punisher drone allows people to pay about $30 to send a written message on the bombs it drops. The ploy taps into people’s anger at Russia, said Yevhen Bulatsev, a founder of the company, UA Dynamics, which donates the drones to the military.
Among the more popular messages, he said, are names of killed friends, hometowns lost to occupation, or people’s own names along with a note saying “hello from.’’
“A lot of people want to express hard feelings,’’ he said. “It’s quite a good thing. It helps people psychologically.”
After Russia invaded, the United States and European allies donated strike and observation drones to Ukraine, including the Switchblade, an American munition that hovers over a battlefield until a tank or other target comes into view, then dives down to blow it up.
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Out in the fields and tree lines of eastern Ukraine, drones have become ubiquitous on the Ukrainian side, outnumbering, soldiers say, Russia’s arsenal of pilotless craft. Drones have almost wholly replaced reconnaissance patrols and are used daily to drop ordnance.
The Ukrainians call the drones buzzing back and forth over no-man’s-land “mosquitoes.” And on a recent, sweltering summer afternoon at a position dug into a tree line of oak and acacia, a drone strike was the only military action, other than distant artillery shelling.